Friday, March 26, 2010

Oh, Internets, I Iove you so

Teach Yourself Na'vi

(This pretty much had to exist, didn't it?)

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Note to self

(Attention Conservation Notice: I could try to dress this up as some sort of commentary on modern capitalism, but it's just me comparison shopping. This is boring EVEN FOR ME, so feel free to skip this entry.)

I've been buying some interesting point'n'shoot cameras (...for certain low values of "interesting"...) - and they each need batteries. Sometimes I'm lucky, and it runs on ubiquitous (and cheap) AAs - but sometimes it takes something preposterous like the now-rare "223", or a PAIR of 123s.

So I buy a $3- or $5 camera... and then I need to find a $10 battery to see if it works.

A 123 lithium cell is:
- $14 for two at my corner drugstore;
- $12 /2 at Home Despot;
- $10 /2 at Walmart;
- $9 for one ($14/2) at Walgreens.
(All these prices are plus my local 8% sales tax.)

All of those options are pretty ridiculous to fire up a camera that was $3 in a thrift-shop, or a $5 camera from eBay .

Going on line, I bought eight of these 123s for $18.95 delivered. Say, $2.38 each. Let the record show that that that is less than half the price at Walmart, about a third of the price of my local drugstore. And if you're willing to try weird-ass Asian brands (and wait for delivery from Hong Kong or someplace), you can get these for less than two bucks a piece in small quantities.

Now, this little hobby of picking up amusing cameras at thrift shops becomes a lot more viable when it takes only an additional buck or three to power it up. Seven dollar 123s or $14 2CR5s are just untenable.

The downside is that I have a new cute little Canon waterproof WP-1 that arrived Friday - but I have to wait a few days now for batteries to come in the mail. Because I simply could not bring myself to spend $10 on batteries for it.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Deader'n' Vaudeville

It's really too bad that film photography is dead, because I'm really enjoying the bargains to be had in used (film) cameras.

A couple of years ago, I was in a local GoodWill, and they were just putting out a Vivitar 90mm/2.5 macro lens. Beautiful lens, very well regarded when it came out in 1978. I picked it up, looked at it - but I didn't have a Pentax "K"-mount camera, so ten bucks seemed like too much.

I left the store and was a mile away when it finally occurred to me that I COULD BUY A PENTAX CAMERA BODY. There must be literally a million K1000s around. So I turned around, went back and bought the macro lens. And as I was buying it, they were just putting out the K1000 that it had come in with. A K1000 and its SMC 50/2 for all of twenty bucks; plus 10 bucks for the Vivitar macro lens: $30 plus sales tax.

I've hacked around with it a bit - the K1000 is a crude but useful tool. The 90/2.5 lives up to its reputation.

Recently I saw this same lens go by on eBay: Vivitar 90mm/f2.5 Macro - where it sold for $400 plus $13.50 shipping.

In a related story, last fall I picked up a late Alpa SLR, one mass-produced by Chinon once Alpa could no longer afford to hand-make their cameras in Switzerland. I played with it a bit, but, once my curiosity was satisfied, I turned around and sold it on eBay. (I wasn't planning to invest in a bag full of M42 lenses just to use the thing.) What I learned, though, is that it really was beautifully made, which gave me some respect for Chinon's capabilities.

Last week I spotted a Chinon CP9-AF SLR on It was in a kit consisting of the AF SLR, its standard 28-70 AF zoom, a 70-210 AF zoom, a dedicated flash, a neveready case, the instruction book, a polarizing filter, etc. I was about to pass it by when I remembered that Chinons were K-mount bodies. So I bid, and got the whole kit for $31 plus shipping.

It's pretty much awesome. It has a built-in intervalometer. And, with non-AF K-mount lenses, it works in "Auto" mode as an aperture-preferred autoexposure camera. So I can use my two existing K-mount lenses with it, for a pretty powerful kit. It's got speed, it's got close-focusing, it's got a wide range of focal lengths - all it lacks is something wider than 28mm or longer than 210mm. I'm trying to think of a project that requires my K-mount macro lens and my new intervalometer-equipped camera: maybe a time-lapse sequence of seed germination?

Now, at some level, this seventy bucks or so would probably have been better spent toward a DSLR. But then again, this kit is quite a bit of fun, and by the time I'm done playing with it, the price of a DSLR will come down in price by that much, so I won't really be out much of anything at all.

Yes, I know film photography is dead - my kids certainly don't hesitate to remind me - but I'm having a ball collecting film cameras.

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WHAT did you just call her?

NYPoliticsfilter: The county supervisor of Suffolk County - who, btw, is a Democrat - is going to challenge the hapless Rick Lazio for the Republican nom for governor. Levy held a press confernece out on the Plaza here in Albany to make the announcement.

So I went over to watch Steve Levy go rogue and abandon the Democratic party.

The high point of his press conference was hearing Richard Nixon's son-in-law call Levy's wife a cow.

(Scroll down.)

State GOP chairman Edward Cox:

"Steve has no sacred cows...except Colleen, of course." The line brought a few confused looks, but didn't make the news.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I still use and collect film cameras.

My spare F3 finally came back to me, March 10, 2010.

(Four years ago, I loaned it to a friend's son so that he could use it for a photography course in college. (Nov. 15, 2005)
Last fall when I WORE OUT my first-line F3, I finally asked my pal to return the loaner. (Oct. 9, 2009.)

My "dead" first-line F3 had developed unreliably short long exposures - anything longer than 1/60 was now iffy, rendering slides inaccurately dark.

I have enough cameras that I have absolutely no need to use a wonky camera. But I'm committed enough to the F3 - I have a drawer full of its goofy accessories - that I really should have a first-line F3, and my F3/T lacks good flash capabilities.
Therefore, I called in my loaner.

So my first-line F3 is retired awaiting a CLA, and it became the parts hulk that I used to revive the loaner.

First off, swap the chrome replacement shutter-button-collar on the loaner camera for the stock black shutter collar from the hulk.

First hurdle: the AA batteries in the motor drive had leaked. Throw them out, clean up the battery holder with vinegar and Q-tips, install new set of batteries.... and then decide that the battery holder in my parts hulk was cleaner, and swap it out.

Power it up, and discover that the meter head (what is that? a DP-3?) is dead.

Take two seconds to swap it out with the HP head from the parts hulk.

Take it out for a test drive, everything's nominal. Switch the drive to "Continuous", let loose a burst - and the motor drive DIES. Just dies.
(Oops. That's a new one, too: I have now worn out an F3 AND killed an MD-4. Wow.)

Grimace, shrug, and swap out the MD-4 motor drive from the parts hulk.

While I'm at it, the door on the hulk looks nicer - swap that out, too.

Voila: I now have a nominal F3 created largely from the accessories and parts from my dead F3.

The loaner is happily restored to working order, and my F3 parts hulk now has
- a wonky shutter,
- a dead metering head,
- a dead motor drive,
- a dirty battery holder,
- a brassed film door,
- a replacement shutter collar (in unpainted aluminum, rather than black).
The hulk is in pretty sad shape now.

But wow, is it fun to tinker with an "F" series Nikon. Just tinkering with the thing fulfills most of my photojournalist fantasies.

The hulk was about $300 in late 2004, and was my first-line camera up through our 2009 vacation.
The spare (loaner) wasn't much over $200, in early 2005.
Then - because I had always lusted after one -
I picked up an F3/T, which was also about $300, later in 2005. (Which sounds like a lot, until you realize that the D3 is five thousand bucks or so. I can buy a LOT of film for the $4000 difference....)

When I found myself with THREE F3s, I happily loaned one out in November 2005. (That went out the door in a rush, as it was needed by my pal's son for a college course.)

When the hulk died last September, I finally called in the loaner. (When the loaner didn't come back right away, I was desperate for a fully-working F3, so I spent all of $140 last November to replace the loaner with a non-HP F3 - which temporarily became my new first-line camera. Now, with the return of the loaner, I seem to be back to THREE working F3s.)

Which, admittedly, is probably in excess of requirements.

(...And then, while I was looking at Nikon SLRs on eBay, I also picked up TWO N90s for under $80 for the pair. THESE might just be my first-line cameras now. My eyes might need AF by now. The N90s are not quite pro grade, but they're awesome cameras, and they give me AF and matrix metering.)

Anyway - now that I have a parts hulk, I'm considering harvesting the flash contacts off of it to replace the corroded contacts on my F3/T. And, if I'm successful, its death will have revived TWO other F3s.

UPDATE: And a look at the F3 repair manual shows that harvesting the flash connector requires some very finicky soldering. That might be too much effort for too little reward. (I keep the F3/T loaded for outdoor photography. Come to think of it, I rarely use a flash on any of the F3s....)

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Set theory

I figured that SOMEWHERE on the planet, there must be a Hotel Hilbert.

(And you could go up to the reception desk, and INSIST that they find you a room. . . "FULL? How can the Hotel Hilbert be FULL?")

A Google search for "Hotel Hilbert" turns up a "Hotel Brigadier Sh De Hilbert Mario", in Santa Fe, Argentina - - but the sign on the door there says "Hotel Brigadier". Not good enough.

But there IS a Pension Hilbert in Greiz, Germany.

Oddly, it claims to hold fewer than 50 guests.

Now I know where to stay on vacation.

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